* The following piece was written by brokencool contributor Jake Quimby
I woke up this morning to the news that Corey Haim had passed away. Sadly, this did not strike me as a huge shock, but it did strike me deeper than anticipated. I began reaching out to people and to ask if they had heard and what type of reaction they had; which lead me to this text exchange:
Me: Corey Haim passed away today.
Friend: Who the f**k is Corey Haim? He hasn’t been relevant in 20 years.
That’s what I needed to read. That exchange helped me clear up the feeling I was having. Another “celebrity” from my childhood had passed away, only this time, no one seemed to care. It was as if the “story” of Corey Haim had been done. Maybe it's because he hasn’t made a movie since the 90s. Maybe it's because there was no redemption angle. Maybe it's because it wasn’t all of a sudden but over a long period time. I ask you though, shouldn't his death matter more?
The answer is sadly no, right? He was a child star, turned teen heartthrob that made popcorn movies. He got too rich, too quickly, and spiraled out of control until his untimely death. Insert any name you want before that tag line right? Wrong. He was exploited as a child. For profit they kept him working regardless of his condition. Parents, managers, handlers all sucking at the teat, never saying no, or don’t, or stop. Then, while estranged from his family he gets in contact with his old friend Corey Feldman. What happens next? Two additional comeback attempts and a reality show. A reality show in which it was not only exposed how far Corey Haim had fallen, but that he had been physically and sexually abused. What does all that mean? Nothing? Something?
It means that Corey Haim wasn’t an alcoholic. He wasn’t an addict. At least, he wasn’t an addict in the celebrity rehab with Dr. Drew sort of way. Before his brain had a chance to fully develop, he was faced with the responsibility of being the breadwinner of his family. The fans, the media, the movie moguls, management teams, we all played a hand in this. We made him a myth, a demi-god, and when he couldn’t handle it, we mocked him. We all said we’d have handled it differently. We all said he was selfish, or childish, or whatever other justification we conjured up to make ourselves feel better. Because, when a celebrity of any stature dies, a part of us feels responsible. Maybe if we could have known them better, if we had been there for them, as they, through their craft, were there for us, the tragedy could have been prevented. Of course, we don’t share these feelings; we dismiss them and make Corey a joke.
Those who survive it, the Drew Barrymores and Robert Downey Jrs, get box office redemption, but little else. Never giving credence to how far they’ve come because we feel they never should have fallen in the first place. I am not oblivious to the shortcomings of child-stars. Nor am I oblivious to the fact that we treat our celebrities like commodities. The real tragedy is that Corey could never overcome being a child star, and no one seemed to give a damn.